Deputy Assistant Secretary
August 22, 2005
VPP and Texas
- Good afternoon. And thank you Davis for that kind introduction. Thank you Mike and members of the Board, as well as our Federal and State partners who are here today to celebrate a wonderful year of accomplishments.
- I would also like to welcome former OSHA Assistant Secretary John Henshaw who is here today. Thank you for your dedicated leadership. You have left all of us with some big boots to fill.
- While I am handing out thank yous, I cannot forget to recognize the folks who prepared that BBQ lunch. I lived in Dallas for almost two decades. My wife's biggest complaint about moving to DC was that we can't find good BBQ anymore. I wish she could have been here to share it with me, but at least I was here to enjoy it with friends.
- You know, 20 years ago, just about the time I graduated from law school and moved here to Dallas, there were only 11 VPP sites throughout the entire U.S. Today, there are 11 sites right here in Dallas, and 8 more in the metropolitan area. There are 200 sites across the state of Texas.
- In fact, the VPP-PA is a bit like the great state of Texas. You're both independent and determined, even trail blazing. You are proud of your traditions but always forward thinking. And you're both branded by the symbol of a star. With y'all in town for the next couple days, the lone star in the Texas flag will wave for VPP.
- But perhaps that's one of the differences between the two of you. While Texas is a lone star, the fact that there are more than 2,000 people gathering here this week, means that you never have to stand alone.
- And the family is growing. There are more than 1,300 VPP sites in the U.S. And with two new pilot programs and a proposal on the table for expanding further into the construction industry, you are reaching further than ever before.
- Your drive to spread the program is expanding south to Mexico, north to Canada and across the Atlantic. Ireland just recognized its first VPP site. And we have someone from Finland who is here to learn more about how to get involved. That's just incredible.
- Can I have a round of applause from our friends who traveled so far to be here this week.
- Everyone here should be extremely proud of what you have accomplished. I applaud each of you for taking a proactive role in improving the safety and health of American workers. It is because of you, that I believe in VPP.
- This week is about business, but it's also about having some fun together. I encourage you to visit the sites around Dallas, including Pioneer Plaza, South Fork Ranch, Texas Stadium - home of my favorite team the Dallas Cowboys - and the State Fair Grounds. The visit will inspire the Texan in all of you.
- In fact, when I was talking to Buddy Elmore earlier... Stand up Buddy, where are you?
- When Buddy and I were talking earlier, he said that after visiting the fairgrounds and seeing the famous 50-foot cowboy statue there, he'd like to submit a motion to be known as "Big Tex" for the rest of the week... Now, that's what I call "Saddling up for Safety."
The OSHA Team
- VPP is OSHA's premier cooperative program, representing the highest levels of commitment to safety and health. Twenty years of demonstrated results prove that it works. In fact, on average, your DART rates are 50 percent below other companies in your industries.
- That is truly remarkable. Think of how many people are safe and healthy because of the great work you do.
- What if every company was VPP? What if we could cut the number of accidents in half at every workplace? That is what many of you have already done. That is the potential for all of us. And that is why I believe in VPP.
- Every single person here today should be proud of your accomplishments... I am honored to stand before you.
OSHA's Commitment to Safety
- It is actually great to get out of Washington and come back home to Dallas for a couple days. As I have learned in the few years I have been in DC... Washington is 69 square miles... surrounded by reality.
- Now I cannot take credit for that line. It belongs to John Miles. John, can you please stand up... Thank you for loaning me your material.
- It is good to be out here in the real world. In many ways, VPP is my reality check, because it is the best evidence I know of, about the positive impact that a commitment to safety and health can have for American workforce.
- VPP is a critical tool to help OSHA's reach its goals. It is an important part of OSHA's Strategic Management Plan, our 5-year blueprint for success. It's an important part of our budget as well. Next year's proposed budget includes an extra million dollars to expand cooperative programs in state plan states. That's good news for everyone here today.
- I take my job as the head of OSHA seriously. Under the leadership of Secretary Chao, we are setting priorities for the agency and advancing OSHA's mission to significantly reduce on-the-job injuries, illnesses and fatalities.
- Just as you are led by an extraordinary team comprised of Mike Maddox, Davis Layne and members of your boards, I am aided by two excellent executives - Steve Witt and Kim Lazor.
Outreach, Education and Compliance Assistance
- Since OSHA was established 34 years ago, we have made great advances in reducing injuries, illnesses and fatalities. Workplace injuries and illnesses have been on a downward trend in recent years. From 2002 to 2003, recordable cases of injuries and illnesses declined 7.1 percent. The U.S. on-the-job fatality rate is the lowest ever recorded.
- Let me repeat that one more time, because I think it is really important. The U.S. on-the-job fatality rate is the lowest ever recorded.
- And listen to this. After nearly a decade of increases, fatalities among Hispanic workers have fallen by 11.6 percent since 2001.
- Remember, these aren't just numbers. They are people, like you and me. They are coworkers and colleagues, friends and family. Every injury avoided and every fatality prevented means one more person returns home to their family at the end of the day. Every single number is someone's life story.
- That's why we are gathered here this week. And that is why we go to work each and every day.
- These accomplishments are the result of the hard work and determination of thousands of safety and health leaders like you, who have dedicated their lives to saving the lives of those they work with.
- In support of this mission, we have developed a balanced approach to safety and health that consists of 3 elements:
- First - Strong, fair and effective enforcement;
- Second - Outreach, education and compliance assistance; and
- Third - Cooperative and voluntary programs.
- Our "balanced approach" is working on all fronts.
- With respect to outreach, education and compliance assistance, there have been some remarkable achievements lately. Now, I don't want to go into all of the details, but there are a few numbers that really stand out in my mind. I don't expect you to remember all of them, but just think about them for a second:
- 335,000 people are taking part in OSHA-sponsored training programs this year.
- 60 million people will visit the OSHA website.
- They will find more than 200 different safety and health topics pages.
- 57,000 people subscribe to QuickTakes.
- We've distributed 100,000 QuickCards on trenching hazards.
- And 30,000 heat stress QuickCards were pre-ordered even before they became available.
- And that just scratches the surface of what we're up to. More products. Better tools. Incredible services. That's what we're about these days.
- And that is why I believe in OSHA.
- But you don't have to believe me. You can hear it in the words of your fellow VPPs.
- Bill Greehey is the CEO of Valero Energy. He believes in partnering with OSHA. And he believes in VPP. I'd like to share his story and his words with you.
- A couple of months ago, Bill was standing in a tent on a warm summer day at Valero's Ardmore, Oklahoma refinery, as it was being inducted into VPP. He looked out on 250 of his people and told them about the time he first met John Miles. This is what Bill said to them:
- "Four years ago, when we were in the process of getting our Texas City facility certified, John came up to visit me... And he said, 'You know, I want to be your partner. And if you succeed, we succeed.'
- "And I didn't know much about OSHA," said Bill. "But I thought 'Wow! What if every agency came and said we want to be your partner?' I mean, how much money would we save, and how much time would we save doing that?"
- "I turned to John and said "I want every single refinery to be a VPP Star site."
- Well Bill and the folks at Valero are well on their way... Partnership and cooperation - starting right at the top... THAT'S VPP. And that's why this program is so important.
VPP Joint Meeting
- OSHA's other cooperative programs can inspire similar reactions. The Alliance and Strategic Partnerships programs have nearly 600 participants combined. And a number of these even have a VPP element.
- The Airline Industry Alliance, combined with the Delta Airlines VPP Star has generated a lot of interest among the airlines. And our Partnership with Koch Industries and the Army specifically includes a goal to expand VPP participation in both. Indeed, there can be a bridge between these programs.
- But we're here to talk about one program in particular. We're here for VPP.
- Last month, representatives from OSHA and VPPPA met at the Department of Labor for the first joint meeting in almost two years. I was there for the meeting. It was great to see the board members and to talk about the issues that are important to both of us. This kind of open communication is essential for the growth of VPP.
- Many of you have provided valuable input during development of the pilots for VPP Corporate and Challenge, as well as the proposal for VPP Construction. As usual, the Association has played an instrumental role in VPP's growth.
- Well, here is where we stand. Our VPP Corporate pilot is in full swing with 7 participants, 3 of whom have completed onsite evaluations. Georgia Pacific was the first company approved for the program. It was quite a ceremony in Atlanta.
- Georgia Pacific has already reported that the lessons of VPP are working across their entire company. Total case incident rates have been reduced by 27% in the last year, with VPP locations experiencing only 1.4 incidents per 100 workers. And even its non-participant sites have benefited from the corporate changes in safety, experiencing a 24% reduction in the number of incidents. Safety is becoming part of their culture. And it is just wonderful to see.
- The U.S. Postal Service was the first federal agency approved into the Corporate Pilot. The program is helping to ensure that neither rain or snow... or slips, trips and falls, will keep them from delivering the mail. The program is helping to provide safe and healthful working conditions for more than 700,000 postal workers.
- I love giving great news. Today, there is a lot of it. I am extremely proud to announce that International Paper has been officially accepted into the pilot. Congratulations to everyone from International Paper who is here today. Welcome to the pilot. Job well done.
- Other companies are lining up as well. Dow has submitted their application and we are anticipating applications from Johnson & Johnson, Maytag and GE.
- There's also good news for OSHA Challenge, which provides a road map for implementing safety and health management systems. It is going strong with 12 Administrators, 51 active Participants, and 19 Candidates who are in the process of applying.
- Two Construction Track participants have already graduated from the pilot - Garber Brothers Precision Concrete and The Weitz Company.
- It didn't take long for Weitz to discover firsthand, the incredible difference that VPP can make. No sooner than a couple weeks after joining the program, a frame worker in Memphis fell off of a truss. But his life was saved because he was wearing the fall protection equipment that had been recommended as part of the program's site-specific safety plan.
- That is what VPP is all about. People fall. And you catch them. At Weitz, and hundreds of other companies just like it, this means saving a life and keeping a family whole. This is why I believe in VPP.
- As with Corporate, the Challenge Pilot has another year until we determine if it will be a permanent program. But so far, the numbers are exceeding expectations and the program is progressing well. More stories like Weitz, and I think you will agree, we could not help but continue the program.
Special Government Employees
- Now let me say a few words about VPP Construction. We are conducting an intensive policy review in order to finalize VPP Construction. Many of you provided comments as part of the process. Thank you for your valuable input.
- The proposal keeps the option for site-based participation, which is designed for long-term construction projects of at least two years, and includes subcontractors. The proposed program also offers Corporate, Division or Business Unit participation and keeps the option for new Demonstration Programs to test alternative methods for meeting requirements.
- We anticipate a final program design in 2006.
- These programs are the new frontier for safety. Participants in the programs are pioneers. We look forward to working with all of you and our State Plan partners as we blaze these new trails.
Federal Agency Participation
- Looking forward gives us an idea of how far we've come. VPP started in 1982. By the early Nineties, it became clear that as the popularity of VPP continued to grow, OSHA needed additional personnel to assist with on-site evaluations. Working closely with the VPP-PA, we created the Special Government Employees Program (SGE).
- Like VPP itself, the SGE program has grown significantly. There are now more than 585 active SGEs - 195 of whom worked on 228 VPP on-sites.
- 180 new SGEs have been trained this year. As the numbers are growing, so are their accomplishments. But among all of the SGEs, there are 7 who stand out above all others. They have been selected as finalists for the first ever SGE of the Year Award.
- The finalists were considered and scored at the VPP Managers Meeting in July. They were evaluated based on SGE Onsites and other activities, technical expertise, initiative and dependability. Looking at the nominations, you would be amazed at the level of dedication exhibited by the nominees for this year's award. It's really staggering.
- I would like to invite the finalists for SGE of the Year to join me on stage.
- Your finalists are:
- Joel Plante of Pratt & Whitney, from Region 1
- Paul Kniskern of Curtis Lumber Company, from Region 2
- Paul Snyder of Rohm & Haas, from Region 3
- Greg Arbise of Delta Airlines, from Region 4
- Kerry Fischman of Georgia Pacific, from Region 5
- Don Jones of Dow Chemical, from Region 6, and
- Mike Pendergrass of Superior Industries, Inc., from Region 7.
- Thank you, every one of you, for your incredible work this past year... Can I please get a round of applause for the 7 finalists standing before you. Thank you.
- Without further ado, the SGE of the year is... Kerry Fischman.
- Kerry has been an active participant in Region 5's Onsite evaluations and has been instrumental in at least 10 sites successfully obtaining VPP status. He is one of the most dependable SGEs in the country and is a valued mentor with extensive technical expertise. Kerry is always among the first to volunteer for safety activities and a regular participant at National and Regional VPP-PA conferences. He also has volunteered his services to OSHA's Training Institute in Chicago.
- Congratulations Kerry. Your hard work and determination is an example of success that every federal and private sector employee should strive for.
VPP in Afghanistan
- Just as Kerry is an inspiration to all SGEs, businesses like you are inspiring federal agencies to follow your lead in exploring VPP. After all, if we in the federal government are asking you to be more safe and healthful, how can we expect anything less from ourselves.
- Federal agencies regularly contact OSHA with interest in VPP. In fact, there are many government services that we enjoy every day that are made safer and healthier by VPP.
- The letters we receive from the U.S. Postal Service, the security provided by our armed forces, the serenity that we enjoy at our national parks and even the money that we spend at our local stores, is brought to you in a safer and healthier way because the federal agencies responsible for these vital services are members of VPP.
- Yellowstone National Park, the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia, postal facilities across the country, the Tobyanna Army Depot in Pennsylvania and the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine are all proud VPP sites. And officials from the Pentagon are exploring how to implement VPP at their facility as well.
- I am confident that VPP can be highly effective at the Pentagon and throughout DOD. After all, the principles of VPP have proven themselves in even the most hazardous situations.
- Some of you may have heard the following story, but I think it bears repeating.
- David Baker, a former OSHA Compliance Safety and Health Officer and the current Region 10 VPP Manager, is an Army Reservist who was called to active duty in Khandahar, Afghanistan in 2002 as one of the Army's newly established Combat Safety Officers. In Afghanistan, David instituted VPP processes, proving that the principles of VPP can work just about anywhere.
- During his deployment, there were no fatal accidents. Only 10 recordable injury accidents occurred at all. To put this in perspective, for a normal military operation like this, there would have been at least 20 fatalities during this time.
- I believe David is here with us today. David... would you please stand up?
- Thank you David, for your incredible work in 2002 and for your continued dedication in Region 10 on behalf of VPP. This is the kind of success that I love to hear about. These are the stories I love to share.
- VPP continues to expand elsewhere around the globe. It is extremely exciting to see other nations embracing the principles of VPP and even moving to implement their own programs.
- In support of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Occupational Safety and Health Tri-national Working Group is developing a recognition program to acknowledge companies achieving superior safety and health excellence in Canada, Mexico and the U.S.
- And great strides have been made in implementing VPP in Ireland and Northern Ireland.
- In fact, I am very excited to announce here today that the GE Infrastructure - Security facility in Dublin, Ireland has become the first ever VPP site in Ireland. Can I please get a roaring round of applause for everyone involved in this tremendous accomplishment.
- I would like to offer my sincere congratulations to the great many people who played critical roles in bringing about this day.
- So many people have been involved in this process and in helping other sites seeking VPP star designation. OSHA provided a Team Leader for the onsite audit of this GE facility and conducted auditor training for safety staff in Ireland and Northern Ireland.
- SGE support was vital in providing several prescreening audits of pilot companies, including the GE site. On screen are the SGEs that have been involved in getting VPP off the ground in Ireland, including Mike Guillory of the VPP-PA Board who conducted a very successful application workshop.
- We will present the results of the pilot at the US-EU conference next month in Orlando. We also are planning for a panel presentation at the World Safety Congress. I am very pleased that Davis Layne will be joining us on the panel.
- As VPP continues to grow and expand through its traditional programs, pilots and international ventures, it will be incumbent on each and every one of us to make sure that the integrity of the programs is maintained so that VPP continues to be a premier safety and health program.
- Toward this goal, the Department of Labor recently commissioned a study by the Gallup Organization to help quantify the value of VPP. Many people here completed the questionnaire. Thank you for taking the time to help us with the study. We are expecting the results soon and will share them with all of you.
- OSHA's mission echoes that of all VPP participants - to strive for continuous improvement in safety and health. To accomplish this mission, we must also strive to continuously improve our own processes.
- We are exploring opportunities to bring OSHA offices and other Department of Labor agencies in line with VPP. It is an ongoing process, but one that took a giant leap forward two weeks ago, when OSHA's Columbus Area Office was announced as the Department of Labor's first VPP site.
- They will receive their flag in a Columbus ceremony next month, but I would like to take this opportunity to officially congratulate everybody in the Columbus Office. Three of the OSHA staff who were key to this accomplishment are here today - Area Director Debbie Zubaty, Assistant Area Director Dave Wilson and Union Steward John Sahayda.
- Also here today are SGEs who helped make the achievement possible - Eileen Santini and Jodi Shapiro of Motorola, Ron Mauerman of Georgia Pacific, Ron Marchand of the U.S. Navy and Robert Sander and Lynn Howard of the U.S. Postal Service.
- Would all of you please stand so that we can thank you for a job well done. Thank you for helping to make this day a reality.
- This represents a defining moment for OSHA and an opportunity to inspire other DOL offices to follow suit. My hope is that by this time next year, the folks from the Columbus Office will be joined by more DOL colleagues as participants in VPP, including other OSHA offices.
- What a year this has been - for OSHA and for VPP. Not only has VPP expanded in the last year, but it also has become more recognizable. VPP flags are flying from coast to coast. And in Rhode Island, the NBC affiliate is so proud of their participation that they have placed the VPP logo on all of their satellite trucks, right next to the NBC peacock.
- This coming year promises to be even more exciting, as traditional programs expand, pilot programs mature and more countries discover the value of VPP. I hope coming here this week will inspire you to take the message of safety and health to every company that is fortunate enough to do business with you.
- In the meantime, I hope you enjoy tonight's Boot, Scoot and Boogie, where you can try out those country and western line dancing moves that you have been secretly practicing at home.
- Thank you... You've been a wonderful audience. It has been an honor to speak to you today. Have a wonderful conference.